JERUSALEM (BP) — As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, He wept. He thought about the people within its walls and said, “If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace.” He knew within hours He’d be crucified by the very people for whom He wept.
Would Jesus still look over the city and weep 2,000 years later?
Most believe He would. Jerusalem is a city where stress runs high and the strain of so many people practicing so many religions in such a small area makes the tension palpable. Many seek a blessing or a healing or some connection with God through well-meaning, but mistaken, devotion.
Bitter division resides just below the surface. Christians, Jews, Muslims — each group would be pleased if the other two simply exited the city walls and disappeared into the barren countryside.
Rebecca* considers herself nonreligious. She’s a bus driver expecting her first child and is married to a devout Jew. She says the relationship works. She ponders the question: What would it take for peace to come to Jerusalem?
“[Peace] between the Jewish people or between everybody?” she asks. “It’s a good question because there is no peace between the Jewish people. The religious [don’t] accept the not religious. The religious people themselves, they have a few groups they don’t like or don’t accept each other, and with the Arabs I think when we have the peace between us it will be easy to make the peace with them, I hope.”
Many who actually want peace see it as something to be brokered; something that’s been pursued by leaders for decades, yet to date has proven elusive. Still many hold out hope for a negotiated solution.
“We all want peace,” a local rabbi says. “In order to achieve this goal, we must realize that Jerusalem is holy for the Jews, for the Christians and for the Muslims, and let’s think about a solution that all the three monotheistic faiths will be OK with.”
Waging peace through sharing the Gospel is not without its challenges. Bitter persecution often faces those proclaiming the same Good News that Jesus shared along these stone streets.
“We work toward peace, we work toward bridging the gap between cultures and between the differences in people, but really it’s God’s grace and only God’s grace that will ever appear,” a Southern Baptist worker says.
Faithful followers of Jesus are preaching His resurrection and reconciling men to God through Christ, just as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5.
“The situation in Jerusalem will decide … the situation in the rest of the world,” says Meno Kalisher, a local Messianic pastor. “The reason the Bible says pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:7) is because it’s like praying ‘Jesus come soon.’ And when He comes soon there will be peace in Jerusalem … and there will be peace in the rest of the world.”
*Name changed. Reed Flannigan served in Europe on the International Mission Board’s communication team. Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist workers around the world share the Gospel. For information about the Lottie Moon offering, go to imb.org/offering; for related videos available for download, go to imb.org/entirechurchvideo. For information about the Cooperative Program, go to http://www.cpmissions.net/2003/default.asp.